The story has been brewing for quite some time, and this past week there was a major development in the matter of separation of church and state.

Probably few Americans even noticed the story. And even if they did, it may not have appeared significant to them because of things we may take for granted.

What happened was that in Norway, the governing body of the state Church of Norway voted for the separation of church and state as a step toward ending 469 years of Lutheranism as the Nordic nation’s official religion.

That’s correct. Norway has had an official state religion for several centuries. And now, even the church wants that dissolved.

In April, the Norwegian government opened a series of hearings on the state church system, seeking input from more than 2,500 congregations, cities and groups on the proposal by Dec. 1.

The general synod, comprised of 11 bishops and 11 diocese councils, voted 63-19 at an annual meeting during the weekend to amend the constitution to drop Lutheranism as the state religion.

Now whether this is good or bad for Norway is a matter for the people there to decide. Anyway, it can’t officially happen before 1013 because two sessions of their Parliament have to pass on it.

Fortunately for the United States, a separation of church and state is provided for in the very First Amendment, along with free speech, free press and the right to assemble to redress grievances.

And since that time, separation of church and state has served us well. Whether it eventually will serve Norway well, well that depends on how those folks in that country view their liberties.

Following the last editorial in this space on freedom of religion, a couple of callers indicated a very poor understanding of our beginnings by noting the First Amendment does not provide for a separation of church and state — only that the state will not prescribe a religion for us. What’s that’s old ditty about “you say tomato and I say tomato?”

Separation of church and state is a generic interpretation noting that the state will not officially dictate or favor a particular religion. However, those who make up churches can certainly wield their influences at the ballot box and those who make up branches of government can function within the various organized faiths in our land. In other words, they may complement each other but only through the power of individuals making choices — not a decree by the body of either.

Lutheranism became Norway’s official religion in 1537 by royal decree.

Denmark has a similar Lutheran state church, while Sweden ended its state church system on Jan. 1, 2000.

Maybe they have viewed our imperfect system and decided even with its problems, it’s a better process in which to uphold the rights of individuals.

Indeed we can be thankful to our founders for their wisdom and foresight in this regard. We are free to embrace any faith or no faith, choice being the fuel that drives democracy.

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